National Professional Qualification for Executive Leaders

Leading or aspiring to lead across several organisations

The Department for Education’s National Professional Qualification for Executive Leadership (NPQEL) follows a leadership curriculum based on Masters level criteria and focuses on developing the knowledge, skills and attributes of a successful executive leader. The NPQEL has been written for those who are, or are aspiring to become, a leader across several schools. To achieve the NPQEL qualification, you’ll need to attend topic-based seminars, conferences, receive individual executive coaching (provided), to study the online content and submit successfully for assessment after 12-18 months.

Seminars for recent groups have covered the following: Level 5 Leadership; Enterprise and Innovation; Strategic Management; Finance for Decision Makers; Leadership and Change; Project Management.


The NPQEL is ideal for those who are, or are aspiring to become, an executive headteacher or CEO of a MAT with responsibility for leading across several schools.  This qualification is also suitable for someone working at this level within a local authority or similar.  You’ll need to have the full support and endorsement of someone to whom you are accountable, for example the CEO of your Trust or the Chair of Trustees. Your line manager will also have to commit to playing an active role in your learning, encouraging and promoting your involvement in executive leadership and other professional development opportunities.

You should normally be – or be within 12-18 months of applying to be – an executive school leader. The application process is dependent on you passing the “gateway” for this level against the criteria for NPQEL framework. You will need the support and endorsement of your line manager before applying. We will shortly be opening applications for the autumn 2019 intake. In the meantime, you can download the gateway assessment paperwork from the downloads section of this page. Please complete a registration of interest form and we will contact you when the applications are open.

The NPQEL is set to produce an outstanding generation of executive leaders.

  1. It provides you with a credible, valid and nationally recognised qualification from an accredited provider to support your development and add strength to your applications for executive posts
  2. It has been designed in collaboration with some of the country’s leading executive leaders and academics to give balance between academic rigour and applied leadership.
  3. The flexible structure combines core elements with the freedom to specialise or develop your own areas of professional interest.
  4. The executive coaching guides you as your prepare for final assessment and provides high quality support as you implement a change project and increase your own and others’ effectiveness.
  5. It provides access to peer learning and coaching to extend and maximise your learning throughout the programme.

The NPQEL is a robust and flexible programme. To complete the qualification, you will need to attend up to 6 face to face days, complete online tasks and learning and undertake a change task while being supported by the provision of individual executive coaching.

The NPQEL will take you between 2 terms and 18 months to complete. During this time you will:

  1. develop knowledge and skills across 6 content areas, which set out what an effective executive leader should know and be able to do
  2. have the opportunity to develop up to 7 important leadership behaviours, which set out how an effective leader should operate
  3. complete a final assessment that evaluates your capability against the knowledge and skills set out in the 6 content areas

Content areas

The 6 content areas across which you will develop your executive leadership knowledge and skills are:

  1. strategy and improvement
  2. teaching and curriculum excellence
  3. leading with impact
  4. working in partnership
  5. managing resources and risks
  6. increasing capability

Leadership behaviours

The 7 leadership behaviours that you will have the opportunity to develop are:

  1. commitment
  2. collaboration
  3. personal drive
  4. resilience
  5. awareness
  6. integrity
  7. respect

Structure and teaching methods

The structure of the NPQEL will include:

  1. on-the-job leadership training
  2. challenge and support – through a coach and/or mentor
  3. access to high-quality resources, drawing on up-to-date research and evidence
  4. professional development from and with credible peers
  5. opportunities for structured reflection
  6. Links with a nationally recognised business school

Final assessment

You will:

  1. design a sustainable business development strategy for your organisation, analysing the benefits, costs and risks of different options
  2. lead a project to improve progress and attainment in several schools

Through these 2 projects, you will need to demonstrate your competence through an assessment linked to the knowledge and skills set out in the 6 content areas.

The Assessment Handbook for the NPQEL can be accessed here.

All face to face sessions will take place at a high quality suitable venue within the eastern region.

Dates and location to be confirmed.

Summer 2020 and Autumn 2020 programme dates are to be confirmed.

Venue: Wellcome Genome Campus, Hinxton, Saffron Walden, CB10 1SA

Autumn 2019

Date: Tuesday 15th of October 2019

Timings: 5pm-9pm including a 3 course dinner with guest speaker

Venue: Wellcome Genome Campus, Hinxton, Saffron Walden, CB10 1SA

The remaining programme dates to be confirmed. All events take place at the Wellcome Genome Campus, Hinxton.

Autumn 2018

Session timings may vary, please refer to session reminders. All sessions take place at the Wellcome Genome Campus, Hinxton

Event Date
Launch Event 6th July 2018
Seminar 1: Level 5 Leadership 15th October 2018
Seminar 2: Enterprise and Innovation 4th March 2019
Seminar 3: Strategic Management 23rd May 2019
Seminar 4: Finance for Decision Makers Friday 7th June 2019
Seminar 5: Leadership and Change 10th July 2019
Seminar 6: Project Management 19th September 2019

Session timings may vary, please refer to session reminders. All sessions take place at the Wellcome Genome Campus, Hinxton

Event Date
Launch Event Monday 4th March 2019
Seminar 3: Strategic Management Thursday 23rd May 2019
Seminar 4: Finance for Decision Makers Friday 7th June 2019
Seminar 5: Leadership and Change Wednesday 10th July 2019
Seminar 6: Project Management TBC
Seminar 1: Level 5 Leadership TBC
Seminar 2: Enterprise and Innovation TBC
It is very important that you provide your Teacher reference Number (TRN) correctly in your application. Most often, the TRN can be found on your school’s central record (which is an Ofsted safeguarding requirement), on your QTS certificate, on your application form for a teaching post and on your Teachers’ Pension annual statement. It is also part of the online login to access the Teachers’ Pension Service online so it’s worth checking to see if you asked your computer to remember it. Some employers include the TRN on a salary slip.

The TRN was previously known as a DfEE number, and similar titles. The TRN is normally in the form: 01 / 23456. If you have a number that is in a different form it is not your TRN and will be rejected by NCTL. Currently TRNs are handled by Capita. If you have not been successful following the above suggestions you can also get your Teacher Reference Number by contacting Capita, who co-ordinate teachers’ pension arrangements:

Telephone: 01325 745746
Fax: 01325 745789

This may take some time though – so we advise you to contact them without delay if you need their help.

Alternatively you can contact the National College QTS Team via the following information:

Telephone: 0207 593 5394

Please note: you will need to provide the QTS team with your full name, date of birth and national insurance number to be able to request your TRN.

The cost for the NPQEL, including coaching and final assessment is £4500.

Please download a copy of the NPQEL Application Form and Guidance below:

NPQEL Application Form

NPQEL Application Guidance

A downloadable version of this information can be accessed here.

Leadership East – How we use your data

Agreement for data collection and analysis

In registering /applying for a place on the NPQ programme, you are agreeing to the collection and sharing of personal data*, such as your name and TRN, with the Department for Education (DfE).

You can find more information about DfE at

The information below explains:

  • what data will be collected
  • why data is being shared with DfE
  • other opportunities to contribute to the evaluation
  • what makes it lawful to collect and share the data with DfE.
  • how this affects you
  • security and confidentiality information
  • contact details for further information.


What personal data will we collect and share with DfE and its approved contractors?

For each participant, we will collect and share the following (referred to as personal data) with DfE:

*Personal data:

  • Name of applicant/participant
  • Teacher Reference Number
  • Current job role/post
  • Date of Birth

*Special category data:

  • Ethnicity
  • Gender
  • Disability (if applicable)


What is the purpose of the data sharing?

Personal data will be collected and shared with DfE for the purpose of research, evaluation, planning and statistical analysis. This will enable DfE to:

  • monitor performance of each provider
  • deliver Quality Assurance (QA) of each provider
  • evaluate the effectiveness of the NPQ programme
  • understand the characteristics of who accesses, completes and benefits from it and in what way, and who does not
  • identify good practice and opportunities to improve the NPQ delivery model
  • understand the outcomes for participants, schools and pupils and any opportunities to improve these outcomes.

The evaluation will directly inform the review of performance and quality of delivery by providers, any improvements to NPQ programme policy and delivery and the outcomes for future participants.

How will DfE use the personal data we share with them?

We will collect and share personal data from your application form and from your NPQ journey (e.g. if you withdraw, complete etc.) with DfE (and Quality Assurance Agency, and external evaluator working on its behalf).

DfE will:

  1. Analyse the personal data from your application form to understand the characteristics of teachers applying for the NPQ (and thereby identifying other groups who are not applying). DfE will use this information to explore the characteristics of participants who withdraw, drop out or complete and any common factors e.g. NPQ level, region.
  2. Link and match this data with other information that DfE already collects or holds (e.g. School Workforce Census, national statistics for schools, Edubase) or data to which it is lawfully permitted access e.g. regional economic information. This enables analysis of the longer-term benefits of the NPQ programme, e.g. how many people progress/are promoted, how long it takes and if there are other factors that help or hinder this progress. This means we can avoid asking you to give us the same information twice. DfE will not share any information that will identify you, or any other third party, unless it is required to do so by law.


How will I be asked to contribute to the evaluation?

  1. At the start of the programme, on behalf of DfE, we will invite all participants to complete an online evaluation survey about your expectations and reasons for applying. At the end of the NPQ programme, we will ask you to reflect on your use of what you have learnt. The responses to the survey will be treated in confidence and we will not see them. During the programme, the Quality Assurance Agency will invite you to complete a survey asking you about the content of the NPQ and its delivery.
  2. In addition, DfE (or a contracted organisation working on its behalf) may contact you to ask you to assist with their research by taking part in telephone or face-to-face interviews; the purpose of this is to provide a richer understanding of your views and experiences. Please note that, if contacted, you will be under no obligation to take part and you can change your mind at any time. If you do agree to participate, you will not be identified or identifiable in any results of the evaluation.


What makes our sharing of your personal data with DfE lawful?

Any additional sharing of personal data provided on your application form will only take place where the law allows it.

We will share personal data with DfE for the purposes of research, evaluation, planning and statistical analysis that is in the public interest.

The Data Protection Act 2018 states ‘personal data shall be processed fairly and lawfully and in particular, shall not be processed unless:

  1. At least one of the conditions in Section 8 of the Data Protection Act 2018 is met, and
  2. In the case of special category personal data, at least one of the conditions in Schedule 1 is also met’

The conditions under which it is lawful for this to happen are:

  • The Part 2, Chapter 2 Lawfulness of processing: In Article 6(1) of the GDPR (lawfulness of processing), the reference in point (e) to processing of personal data that is necessary for the performance of a task carried out in the public interest or in the exercise of the controller’s official authority includes processing of personal data that is necessary for part (d)the exercise of a function of the Crown, a Minister of the Crown or a government department.
  • The Schedule 1 Part 2, 6 (2) condition: Statutory etc and government purposes for collecting and processing sensitive personal data on a participant’s disability is condition and racial or ethnic origin. (b)the exercise of a function of the Crown, a Minister of the Crown or a government department.


How does this affect you/participants?

  • Our sharing of this personal data with DfE (or its contracted partner working on its behalf) will have no influence on the outcome of your application or your participation in the NPQ and the findings of DfE’s research will not identify you or any other applicants.
  • Any reported findings will appear at an aggregated level with no individual applicant, participant or school identified OR identifiable.


Security and confidentiality

Any personal data shared with DfE (and organisations acting on its behalf) will be handled securely and confidentially. It will be used for the purposes of monitoring, quality assurance and evaluation of NPQ programme, and for related research on recruitment, personal development, leadership and retention.


Further information

For further information on how we process your personal data for the purposes of the NPQ, please contact: The Director, Leadership East at

If you would like to know more about what personal data is being collected and how this is used by DfE to improve the NPQ programme, please contact:

The evaluation surveys will be conducted by an external contractor employed by DfE and managed by Zoey Breuer. If you have any questions about how DfE will use your information for research and evaluation purposes, please contact:


Please note that applications are now closed for the National Professional Qualification for Executive Leaders.